Sunday 23rd September 2018

USA Today redirects all EU users to a ‘no ads’ experience, other news sites block EU visitors

The news organization is redirecting EU IP addresses to an ad free version of its website hosted on a subdomain. It's one of many organizations that have taken a more clinical approach to GDPR compliance.
Jason Smith
by on 25th May 2018

EU visitors to USAToday.com are being redirected to eu.usatoday.com, a new subdomain that no longer serves advertisements. Other popular US news websites including LA Times and Chicago Tribune are blocking EU visits, while Time and Fortune have set up mechanisms to collect consent.

A number of other news organizations, including TechCrunch, HuffPost and Forbes, implemented consent management platforms earlier this week.

According to online competitive analysis tools, USAToday.com attracts 133 million visits per month and 84 percent of those visits originate from the USA. The top contributing country from the EU is the UK, which drives 1.8 percent of all of USA Today’s traffic.

The redirection chain set up by the news organization comprises 301, 307 and 302 redirects. The final redirect for EU visitors is a 302 “temporary” redirect to eu.usatoday.com. A very small number of pages from the new subdomain have already been picked up by Google’s crawlers.

Meanwhile, US users visiting eu.usatoday.com are redirected back to usatoday.com.

The new subdomain isn’t indexed by Google News (news websites can submit new sections for inclusion in Google News, which it appears USA Today hasn’t chosen to do) and the source code doesn’t appear to contain a canonical tag (which is a tag that helps Google identity duplicate content) pointing back to the primary source of information.

While EU visits to its website represent a relatively low share of total traffic, according to competitive analysis tools they still amount to millions of visits per month and could impact the news organization’s digital revenues.

In a notification on its website, USA Today states, “We are directing you to our EU Experience.

“This site does not collect personally identifiable information or persistent identifiers from, deliver a personalized experience to, or otherwise track or monitor persons reasonably identified as visiting our Site from the European Union”.

The redirecting of all its EU visitors is a consequence of the EU’s new GDPR, which comes into force today.

The clinical approach is one that has been adopted by a number of organizations concerned about the EU’s powers to levy fines up to 20 million EUR for failing to comply with its new regulation.

Unroll.me, a service that helps users manage their email subscriptions and that has faced prominent criticism over how it processes data, recently decided to temporarily stop servicing EU customers.

Meanwhile Raganarak Online (an online game) and Verve (an ad vendor), as well as a host of other organizations, have announced they are taking similar actions.

A number of organizations have struggled in weeks to put the GDPR into practice.

While some organizations have implemented on-site consent management platforms that conditionally serve scripts dependent on user input, other organizations have cited third-party platforms like EU Online Choices as solutions users can utilize to control what cookies are set on their computers.

Part of the issue for organizations is how best to translate the GDPR’s definition of what comprises personal data into practical solutions designed to protect it.

Compliance will remain particularly challenging for organizations that set tens or hundreds of third-party cookies on their visitor’s computers.